NASA Sets Sights on Lunar Dust Exploration Mission

Apr 10, 2008

NASA is preparing to send a small spacecraft to the moon in 2011 to assess the lunar atmosphere and the nature of dust lofted above the surface.

Called the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), the mission will launch before the agency's moon exploration activities accelerate during the next decade. LADEE will gather detailed information about conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these influences will help researchers understand how future exploration may shape the lunar environment and how the environment may affect future explorers.

"LADEE represents a low-cost approach to science missions, enabling faster science return and more frequent missions," said Ames Director S. Pete Worden. "These measurements will provide scientific insight into the lunar environment, and give our explorers a clearer understanding of what they'll be up against as they set up the first outpost and begin the process of settling the solar system."

LADEE is a cooperative effort with NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The total cost of the spacecraft is expected to be approximately $80 million.

Ames will manage the mission, build the spacecraft and perform mission operations. Goddard will perform environmental testing and launch vehicle integration. The mission will be established within Marshall's newly created Lunar Science Program Office. Marshall will draw upon experience gained from managing a larger suite of low-cost, small satellite missions through NASA's Discovery and New Frontiers Program.

LADEE will fly to the moon as a secondary payload on the Discovery mission called Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), which is designed to take ultra-precise gravity field measurements of the moon. Current plans call for the GRAIL and LADEE spacecraft to launch together on a Delta II rocket and separate after they are on a lunar trajectory. LADEE will take approximately four months to travel to the moon, then undergo a month-long checkout phase and begin 100 days of science operations.

LADEE is one of many activities to support lunar exploration planned by NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Last year, NASA also established a lunar science institute at Ames. Research teams will address current topics in basic lunar science and possible astronomical, solar and Earth science investigations that could be performed from the moon. In addition, NASA is preparing for scientific investigations following the planned launch later this year of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). After a 30-year hiatus, LRO represents NASA's first step toward returning humans to the moon.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Going a long way to do a quick data collection

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stepping stones to NASA's human missions beyond

Jan 21, 2015

"That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind." When Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, many strides came before to achieve that moment in history. The same is true for a human ...

Space exploration promises to be spectacular in 2015

Jan 06, 2015

There is no doubt that 2014 was a fantastic year for planetary sciences – the high points were the successful landing of Philae on comet 67P, the discovery of methane by the Curiosity rover on Mars and ...

Off-world manufacturing is a go with space printer

Dec 20, 2014

On Friday, the BBC reported on a NASA email exchange with a space station which involved astronauts on the International Space Station using their 3-D printer to make a wrench from instructions sent up in ...

Recommended for you

Going a long way to do a quick data collection

1 hour ago

Like many a scientist before me, I have spent this week trying to grow a crystal. I wasn't fussy, it didn't have to be a single crystal – a smush of something would have done – just as long as it had ...

How are planets formed?

2 hours ago

How did the Solar System's planets come to be? The leading theory is something known as the "protoplanet hypothesis", which essentially says that very small objects stuck to each other and grew bigger and ...

Japan to launch new spy satellite

6 hours ago

Japan's government said it will launch a back-up spy satellite on Sunday, after cancelling an earlier lift-off due to bad weather.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.